Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “25: Absence”

Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA is a relisten and recap series for season one of ars PARADOXICA released every Tuesday and Thursday.

Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA is a relisten and recap series for season one of ars PARADOXICA released every Tuesday and Thursday. You can see the full series here.


“25: Absence”

An embed to RadioPublic’s direct link for the episode, which you can also find here.

Transcript
Written by: Julian Mundy


So, what happens in this episode?

After receiving the new of Dr. Esther Roberts’s conviction of treason, Dr. Grissom, Petra, Bridget Chambers, and Lou Gaines ruminate on where to go from here. Chambers points out that of all of them, Dr. Grissom has known Dr. Roberts for the longest period of time, even though Dr. Roberts met Chambers much earlier than she met Dr. Grissom. Dr. Grissom is distracted until a waiter breaks a plate, and she snaps out of her stupor, realizing that nothing in the hearing adds up. She asserts that because they can access all of the evidence, they should look into the case before Dr. Roberts’s planned execution.

The team asks for Whickman’s permission and credentials for looking into the case, but Whickman is hesitant. He tells them he already testified and that he needs to stand by his word; he tells them he’s already so overworked, so monitored by his superiors, that one misstep could wind up in him being fired. Dr. Grissom pitches the investigation as a way for him to keep his job secure: if Dr. Roberts wasn’t the one who gave U.S. secrets to Russia, the person who stole the Timepiece is still out there, and everything seems to be going according to their plan. Whickman agrees, which is good, because they’d already started anyway.

The group starting looking through the evidence trying to find anything that could prove Dr. Roberts’s innocence. Their first priority is looking into her time off and seeing what she was doing–but they don’t have access to check what she was doing, and it seemed like she was constantly working anyway. While they start researching, though, Dr. Grissom lets it slip that she wishes she could get through to Partridge, which means all of them now know she was talking to him in the first place. Petra is especially bewildered and frustrated by this–not just because Dr. Grissom was withholding the information, but because Dr. Grissom may have caused the Blackroom to go silent.

Later, Petra apologizes to Dr. Grissom. She tells Dr. Grissom that because she knows everything Dr. Grissom is capable of, it’s frustrating to see her fall short of expectations; Petra idolizes Dr. Grissom, and is one of the only people who genuinely respects and understands her level of genius. Petra asks Dr. Grissom to keep trying to reach Partridge, and Dr. Grissom agrees–but Petra still puts in a threat that if she did cause the problems with the Blackroom, she should have explained.

Dr. Grissom keeps trying to reach Dr. Partridge, but she finds no success. In a montage of phone calls, Dr. Grissom goes from desperate to angry to genuine despair and concern for one of the best and only friends she’s had since being sent to the past.

During their investigation, they eventually realize that the final call made to the Blackroom was a call using Lou Gaines’s code–but he has no idea how anyone found it. He asserts that he didn’t send the call; he only ever got the code be default and never even learned how to use it. The use of Gaines’s code explains why Marian was sent on the job to make sure he wasn’t recruited in the first place–but the mystery of who actually used it remains.

Gaines helps Petra move into a house she’s renting, and in her narration, Dr. Grissom says that she too could use some time alone. After investigating for so long, she’s not even sure what they’re looking for.  Dr. Grissom says that she wasn’t–but definitely also was–afraid of Petra, but mostly that she’s putting so much time and energy into being the brilliant Dr. Grissom Petra read about because she wants to live up to that legend of herself. She wants to do that for Petra, who has been through so much.

Dr. Grissom’s narration is interrupted by Chambers telling her Whickman has a message for her. Whickman tells her that Dr. Roberts’s execution date has been pushed up. They no longer have several years to find evidence to support her, but instead six months. Dr. Grissom’s team is frustrated and panicked, and they start trying to figure out who could have done it. Petra points out that none of ODAR’s intel has been right given it was Marian, not Gaines, who turned on them, which motivates Chambers to suggest that maybe Carmen did it. Petra does not take this suggestion well. She yells at Chambers and storms out. Outside, Petra calls out to Carmen, who still hasn’t contacted her. Petra is heard and comforted by Dr. Grissom’s next door neighbor, Ida, who invites her inside for some tea.


Key facts and characters

  • Ida: Dr. Grissom’s next door neighbor. Ida is played by Maxximillian Dafoe.

How does it hold up?

When I think of Julian Mundy’s writing, I often think of his comedy. Especially in StarTripper!!, Mundy’s wit is quick, sharp, and heavily steeped in character. His voice in writing often feels in the same vein as Whedon quips, except good. I don’t often think about Mundy’s capabilities in writing intense drama, but the arguments in this episode helped me remember just how wide Mundy’s range in writing is.

The scene with Dr. Grissom trying repeatedly to call Anthony Partridge is, like the diner scene early on, one that stands out to me so vividly even years after listening. As soon as the scene started, I remembered what it was, and my heart sunk. It’s a different kind of pain on this listen, knowing how everything ends, already having taken this journey with the characters. Still, though, it felt just as fresh as it did the first time.


Butterfly Syndrome

Timeline 1

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
    • XXXX: Dr. Nikhil Sharma goes back in time with two conflict missions: kill Dr. Grissom or bring her back to the current year.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, but Dr. Grissom does not move forward with the test on the Timepiece.
    • On Wednesday, July 16th, 1945, Dr. Grissom, Anthony Partridge, Helen Partridge, and Chet Whickman witness The Trinity Test.
    • On September on an unnamed date, Quentin Barlowe is killed by a bullet in a time loop:
      • Loop A1: Quentin Barlowe is shot by Chet Whickman from Timeline 3.
      • Loop A2: Dr. Grissom is shot by June Barlowe, which is then sent back in time to kill Quentin Barlowe, also closing the loop.
    • Quentin Barlowe’s funeral occurs on September 16th, 1945.
    • Dr. Grissom invents the TAP on September 20th, 1945.
    • The ODAR Christmas party, and subsequent mass firing, is on December 21st, 1945.
      • Loop B1: When the Polvo power grid overloads, Dr. Grissom A uses the timepiece to help save Polvo.
      • Loop B2: Dr. Grissom B goes to RAINBOW A and pulls the lever to regulate the power. RAINBOW B explodes.
      • Loop B3: Dr. Grissom C chokes out Lambert and saves RAINBOW A, saving the town in conjunction with Dr. Grissom B or Maraczek.
    • December 24th, 1945: Dr. Grissom A wakes up. Dr. Grissom B and C have been killed by Cornish and Donovan.
    • February 1946: Dr. Grissom, Roberts, Wyatt, Anthony Partridge, and Helen Partridge are moved to Point of Exile, Colorado, by Donovan and Whickman.
    • March 1st, 1946: Dr. Grissom concludes that forward time travel using the timepiece is impossible.
    • August 2nd, 1946: Dr. Grissom accidentally gets stuck in the CAGE for an hour and a half.
    • August 18th, 1946: Helen Partridge’s jazz performance.
    • September 9th, 1946: Roberts and Whickman stay in the CAGE for just over 22 hours.
    • December 23rd, 1946: Helen Partridge leaves Point of Exile.
    • December 24th, 1946: Partridge discovers Donovan’s tapes.
    • October 27th, 1949: Dr. Grissom establishes the answering machine in The Blackroom, and Esther Roberts reunites with Bridget Dreyfuss. Dr. Nikhil Sharma is brought back from XXXX.
    • November 2nd, 1949: Dr. Nikhil Sharma is killed by Chet Whickman.
    • February 27th, 1953: Dr. Roberts is put in house arrest.
    • March 3rd, 1953: Dr. Roberts’s trial.
    • May 19th, 1985: Petra, Carmen, the other children, and Van arrive after travelling back in time.
      • Loop 1: Liam travels back in time ten minutes to see himself.
      • Loop 2: Liam A meets Liam B from 10 minutes in the future, giving him severe Butterfly Syndrome.
    • December 13th, 1990: Petra, Carmen, the other children, and Van travel back in time to May 19th, 1985.

Timeline 2

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, but Dr. Grissom moves forward with the test on the Timepiece, which then sends an electromagnetic pulse backwards in time into Timeline 1.

Timeline 3

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, and Dr. Grissom does not go forward with the test on the Timepiece.
  • On September on an unnamed date, Quentin Barlowe is killed by Chet Whickman after Whickman finds out that Barlowe’s records are fake. The bullet is sent through a rift in time to Timeline 1.

Fragment Timelines

Throughout the series, there are fragmented timelines that the audience is never given the full details of. Instead of trying to factor these into the main timelines, they’ll be given their own sections.

Bill Donovan’s Tapes

In the first season, Partridge finds the tapes that Donovan has been sending to himself from the future using his own Timepiece to make sure he gets his way. Only certain tapes were played in the episode, “10: Consequence, Act I.”

  • Tape 1: Recorded August 1st, 1945; sent back to July 10th, 1945. Donovan tells himself to let Partridge take the others to Las Vegas. He tells his past self that J. Edgar Hoover is gay.
  • Tape 2: Recorded July 17th 1945; sent back to July 10th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that the intel on J. Edgar Hoover wasn’t sufficient.
  • Tape 5: Recorded July 26th, 1945; sent back to July 18th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Winston Churchill lost the United Kingdom general election and that they should call in a favor.
  • Tape 7: Recorded August 10th, 1945; sent back to August 4th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Truman still will not fund their work until he sees good evidence that it’s going towards something.
  • Tape 12: Recorded September 12th, 1945; no date listed for when it was sent back. Donovan says that he found the tape of Chet Whickman from Timeline 1, Loop A1, shooting Quentin Barlowe.
  • Tape 16: Recorded December 3rd, 1945; sent back to November 28th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Hank Cornish has arrived in town.
  • Tape 19: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self how to avoid being hit by a car.
  • Tape 20: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tries again to tell his past self how to avoid being hit by a car.
  • Tape 21: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self to not go outside.
  • Tape 26: No dates given. Donovan tells his past self to tell “her” how much she means to him.
  • Tapes 29-33: Recorded December 21st, 1945; sent back to December 20th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self how to trigger the explosion in Polvo, make sure Dr. Grissom uses the Timepiece to create duplicates of herself, and then use those duplicates as physical proof that the timepiece is working to get their funding.
  • Donovan’s final tape: Recorded December 10th/15th/18th, 1946: Donovan tells his past self that his illness is getting worse, but he receives the tapes.

Elbourne’s experiments

  • Experiment 1: Food is sent to a mouse back through the Timepiece.
    • Loop 1: The mouse, Kronos, pushes a button, and receives his food an hour later. Food is brought back to Loop 2 through the Timepiece.
    • Loop 2: Kronos receives his food as soon as he pushes the button. The food is received from an hour into the future via the Timepiece.
  • Experiment 2: A mouse is sent back through the Timepiece many times to complete a maze.
    • Loops 1-6: The mouse, Hermes, attempts to complete the maze with quickly declining proficiency.
    • Loop 7: Hermes is dead at the start of the maze.
  • Experiment 3: Three mice are sent back to their past selves. Pushing a button, the future mice will receive food but shock their past selves.
    • Loop 1: The mice–Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos–are raised to adulthood. They are trained to receive food by pushing a button.
    • Loop 2: The adult mice are sent back through the Timepiece to adjoining cages to their past selves.
      • Future Clotho pushes the button, indifferent to the pain of Past Clotho.
      • Future Lachesis refuses to push the button, starving herself.
      • Future Atropos attempts to kill Past Atropos by abusing the button, regardless of receiving food.
  • Experiment 4: A mouse will be sent to raise itself in the past with its mother.
    • Loop 1: A mother mouse raises a child mouse in isolation.
    • Loop 2: The child mouse, now an adult, is sent back through the Timepiece to raise itself with the mother. The adult mouse attempts to kill its past self.

The Recruitment of Gaines and Marian

In a version of the current timeline, both Gaines and Marian are recruited into ODAR. Sometime after October 28th, 1943, Marian is given the order to stop Gaines from joining ODAR.

  • Loop 1: Both Gaines and Marian are recruited by ODAR.
  • Loop 2: The current timeline, Marian destroys Gaines’s offer letter to work for ODAR.

The Multiple Petras

In order to execute the jailbreak plan for Maraczeck and Lambert, an infinite number of Petras traveled to the past, to other Petras’ timelines, to help them learn from their mistakes.

  • Petra 1: Taught by all the iterations before herself, Petra’s mission fails, so she uses the Timepiece to travel to the timeline of Petra 2.
  • Petra 2: Taught by Petra 1, she attempts the jailbreak plan and fails. Petra 1 dies, and Petra 2 travels to the timeline of Petra 3.
  • Petra 3: Taught by Petra 2, she attempts the jailbreak plan. Petra 3 is the Timeline 1 Petra, and she is currently still joined by Petra 2.

ODAR & You!

  • The mystery of the numbers station at the end of each episode is. If you’ve been decoding them–or, like me, just reading them on the Wiki–you can see that they become clearer and clearer messages for characters in the story, sent back through time by Morales and Dr. Sharma.
    • The weather in Tulsa today is: HUMID

On Tuesday (5/30/19), I’ll be recapping episode “26: Grip.” For all of the ars PARADOXICA recaps, start with this post, or see all of the posts in the series here.


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